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Starr: Libya has scientific expertise on WMD

Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr
Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr

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President Bush announces that Libya has agreed to dismantle its weapons of mass destruction. (December 19)
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Barbara Starr
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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Col. Moammar Gadhafi has agreed to let international weapons inspectors enter Libya and says his country will dismantle its weapons of mass destruction programs, President Bush said Friday.

For more on the military implications of this announcement, CNN's Lou Dobbs spoke with Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr.

STARR: Well Lou, here at the Pentagon [there is] always a heavy dose of reality and caution when any of these types of announcements come.

In terms of the military implications, one of the first things people say to remember is that Libya, like other countries that have weapons of mass destruction programs, has scientific expertise, irrespective of [its] weapons ... or missiles ... [It has] a research and development community, people who have expertise on these problems.

One of the key questions will be, where are those people, what other countries may they have gone to, what countries may they be helping?

Now, [regarding] Libya's long-range missiles ... [which] would [be] the delivery mechanism, presumably for any nuclear, chemical or biological weapon, it's been many years since the U.S. ... has believed that Libya's long-range missile program is ... practical [and] workable.

It had largely been theoretical for many years. Libya had not invested in the technical expertise, the engineering and testing that made anybody think its long-range missile program was [a] credible threat. Again, that gets back to the question, what about all of the scientists [who] worked on the programs?

In terms of its chemical and biological programs, it had largely been believed that the biological program was mainly a research-and-development program ... But in the chemical arena, there had been an understanding that Libya may have developed as much as 100 tons of mustard blister-type agent, [and] sarin chemical weapons.

There were two plants that posed significant concern in recent years to the United States, that was a chemical weapons plant at place called Rabta. It had shut down and become a pharmaceutical plant, according to the Libyans. That's a place the U.S. and the international inspectors are going to want to go to and inspect.

There is another facility called Tarhuna. This came to light several years ago. It was a facility built deep underground in a hillside. At the time, the Libyans claimed that it was so strong, so deep underground, it could withstand an aerial attack, a bombing attack. That plant apparently [has] gone into mothball, but it is certainly another major underground facility that international inspectors are going to want to look at.

In terms of their nuclear program, the Libyans had been party to some international treaties restricting nuclear proliferation, but in recent years, it had been well understood that they had approached China, the former Soviet Union and Pakistan, and that they had worked on a number of programs for civilian nuclear power. So a lot of concern as well, what nuclear technology and expertise, scientific expertise, they may have gained through that effort.

DOBBS: In nuclear power in Libya, a country [with] fewer than 6 million people [and] producing a million and a half barrels of oil a day, ... the same question [is raised] that the western countries have about Iran: Why in the world do you need nuclear power? Barbara Starr, thank you very much, reporting from the Pentagon.

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